Neuromyelitis optica (NMO) is an inflammatory autoimmune disorder of the central nervous system, hallmarked by pathogenic anti-aquaporin 4 antibodies. NMO prognosis is worse compared with multiple sclerosis.
The European Group for Blood and Marrow Transplantation (EBMT) Autoimmune Diseases Working Party (ADWP) conducted a retrospective survey to analyze disease outcome following autologous stem cell transplantation (ASCT).
This retrospective multicenter study assessed the efficacy and safety of ASCT in 16 patients suffering from refractory NMO reported to the EBMT registry between 2001 and 2011.
Fifteen patients were successfully mobilized with cyclophosphamide (Cy) and G-CSF, one with G-CSF alone. All patients received an unmanipulated autologous peripheral blood stem cell graft, after conditioning with BEAM plus anti-thymocyte globulin (ATG, n = 9 patients), thiotepa-Cy (n = 3) or Cy (200 mg/kg) plus ATG (n = 4).
After a median follow-up of 47 months, three of 16 cases were progression and treatment free, while in the remaining 13 patients further treatments were administered for disability progression or relapse after ASCT. Altogether, relapse-free survival at three and five years was 31% and 10%, respectively, while progression-free survival remained 48% at three and five years.
In these NMO patients, highly resistant to conventional treatment, ASCT allows for temporary control of the disease, despite a tendency to progress or relapse in the long term.